Christian Kaufholz: Facing Climate Crisis with Confidence

Christian Kaufholz is a Global Leadership Fellow with the World Economic Forum. He manages affiliate programs under the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership, which tackles the plastic pollution crisis around the world. In the following interview, Kaufholz reflects on his time at Sciences Po, how his international education factored into his career decisions, and the future of sustainable plastic use.

From 2000 t0 2001, Kaufholz studied in the International Program of Political and Social Sciences in Paris. This year-long exchange took place during his undergraduate studies at Columbia University, where he majored in political science and economics. Kaufholz grew up in international German schools abroad, which fostered a desire in him to learn French in addition to English as a second language, and motivated his time in Paris.

Kaufholz credits his year in Sciences Po to many positive changes in his life. “Overall it was an amazing year, both personally and academically. I met my wife there, and as a student you take advantage of the cultural life… the whole experience was amazing. From an academic point of view, it boosted my French. It also opened the possibility to learn a different academic approach, different methodologies. It was challenging,” he says.

After graduating from Columbia University, Kaufholz continued on his path in international relations. He came back to Paris for an internship, and then spent time in Brussels in a European Commission traineeship. “Having the European experience helped me go down that route,” he says. After his time in Brussels he moved to Colombia for six years with his wife, and then ultimately moved back to New York. In New York he began his position with the World Economic Forum.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership is a multi stakeholder collaboration between public and private sectors that brings together policy makers, leaders, and civil society to address the plastic pollution crisis. Kaufholz manages many of these projects at both national and global levels. Some of these endeavors include problem solving roundtables and discussions, campaigns, and innovation. “I manage projects but also curate stakeholders that we want in the room in order to have the most relevant voices and influencers to help bring these solutions to life.”

Kaufholz comments on the surprising overlap of interests in his ecological projects. “What I find surprising in this field is how similar people’s passions are for improving things around us,” he says. “Plastic pollution is a tangible and urgent crisis we are facing, but there is an awareness and readiness across organizations, including the corporate sector, who put effort into innovation. Firms focus on how they can disrupt their models and change the way we produce, distribute, and consume products. To see that joint readiness, even across divides, is powerful. It is something that continues to surprise me.”

With the Global Plastic Action Partnership, Kaufholz works on both business model innovations and technological innovations. He advises, “But the technological piece is only part of the solution. It is not a substitute for behavioral, cultural changes around how we value resources. And it is also not a substitute for policy and government innovations.”

Kaufholz speaks to how his time at Sciences Po and his international experiences support his ability to work at a global scale. “Being open to different ways of working, different perspectives, is something that I live and breathe every day,” he says.

Kaufholz uses his knowledge to impart one piece of wisdom to younger students: “Being a student is a privilege. You’re able to look at the world from a lens where you can take a macro view of what is going on. That view can get lost when you enter a career. All of a sudden you are navigating management challenges, internal politics, operational challenges. Given the issues we have in the world, I encourage students to not lose sight of the privilege of seeing the big picture and always questioning it. Keep that.”

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